Tourist season in St. Petersburg: tourists returned, but the profit did not

Tourist season in St. Petersburg: tourists returned, but the profit did not

Tourist season in St. Petersburg: tourists returned, but the profit did not
News

19 August, 13:42
Economy
The summer of 2022 turned out to be hot and unusual in terms of vacations. Europe is inaccessible, the southern resorts of Russia, except for Sochi, without air service. Against this background, there is a tourist boom in St. Petersburg.

But is everything so rosy in the Northern capital - in the material of Novye Izvestia.

Alexander Dybin, St. Petersburg

We live by the prices of 2019

The tourism industry, like many others this year, is not comparing itself to last year, but to 2019. The next two years passed under the sign of the coronavirus pandemic and were practically deleted from life and statistics. According to the head of the tourism committee of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of St. Petersburg Alexander Musikhin, the tourist season in the Northern capital is still in full swing and the final results will be clear in October. But it is already clear that the results are much better than last year.

“In terms of receiving tourists in St. Petersburg, we are ahead of schedule, relative to 2021, at the expense of Russian tourists. There are many reasons for this, including cashback, the closure of European destinations, and the price attractiveness of tours to St. Petersburg. The average age of tourists significantly rejuvenated last season, many young couples came. Now more families are coming. Spending Russian tourists - about 40 thousand rubles, foreign 80-100 thousand per tour per person, which corresponds to the level of last year. There are very few organized foreign tourists. Tens of times less than pre-pandemic volumes. Citizens of India, the Middle East, primarily Iran, and the CIS come”.

Deputy Chairman of the Tourism Committee of the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry, owner of hotels and hostels Alyona Yenova estimates hotel occupancy this summer at 70-80%. However, the income of hoteliers is not the same as before: there are no foreigners who bought additional services, and Russian tourists save.

“This season, there was a thaw, they took a deep breath", - the expert says, “but so far they have not been able to cover all the losses from the pandemic. At the same time, we work at prices in 2019, although expenses increased by 30% - utilities, consumables, salaries - everything has become more expensive, but the price has not changed. Yes, there are hotels that decided to hit the jackpot this summer by doubling their prices. But those who want people to come back to them again and again are forced to work at the old prices. The Russians have become poorer and are categorically unwilling to pay more than certain marks. In addition, unlike foreigners, they are more selective about the additional services that we offer. A foreign tourist does not come to visit relatives, but for emotions, so he buys everything that is offered to him: excursions, souvenirs, etc. And Russian tourists don’t need nesting dolls”.

According to the expert, a day in a three-star hotel with breakfast costs 6,000-7,000 rubles. Guest houses, hotels 1-2 stars cost 2800-3800 rubles per day. At the same time, apartment owners compete with hotels. Here, the price range can be from 2,500 to 15,000 rubles per day. Apartments are chosen either by those who want to save money. For example, families with children or companies that can not pay extra for extra beds in apartments, like in hotels, and also not to be tied to breakfast and have a kitchen for preparing meals for children.

According to the director of the League of Tour Operators of St. Petersburg, the head of the Nevsky Seasons company Kirill Sokolov, in 2022 the number of Russian tourists in the Northern capital increased by 15-20% compared to 2019. However, given the lack of foreign tourists, the total tourist flow is 25-30% lower

“The interest of Russians in St. Petersburg is primarily influenced by closed borders and the inability to travel to Europe, in addition, tourist cashback plays a role,” the expert says. - One of the main trends of this year is a large number of family tourists and vacationers with children who did not get to the seaside resorts. Therefore, family rooms and children's programs are especially popular. As for the cost of recreation, there is an increase, but not a big one, just below inflation. In fact, we work in 2019 prices. On the one hand, there are many tourists. On the other hand, the profitability of tourism industry enterprises has become even lower than it was. This pricing policy is dictated by the solvency of the population, people are simply not ready to pay more. In addition, there is a lot of competition in St. Petersburg, many hotels and companies were previously focused on foreigners, which now they are switching to Russians, so prices have to be restrained”.

Most Muscovites in St. Petersburg

At the request of Novye Izvestia, travel planning service OneTwoTrip analyzed user interest in St. Petersburg. According to the bookings made by the service's customers this summer, St. Petersburg ranks second in the top Russian cities with a booking share of 11.7%. Compared to the same period last year, the figure increased by almost 10%. In terms of railway orders, the Northern capital is also in second place with a share of 9.5%, but the demand for travel here by rail decreased by 6%.

Most often this summer, people fly to the city from Moscow (share - 30.9%), Kaliningrad (7.3%), Sochi (6.6%), Yekaterinburg (6%) and Mineralnye Vody (3.7%). By train to St. Petersburg also arrived most often from the capital (share 56.7%). In addition, people traveled here from Tver (2.2%), Rostov-on-Don (2.1%), Petrozavodsk (1.7%) and Pskov (1.6%). The average cost of a flight to St. Petersburg this summer was 6,100 rubles per person, and a railway trip was 4,100 rubles.

“Tourists in the northern capital stayed an average of 2.7 days. Most often, they stayed in hotels of the two-star category and below - in 49% of cases. 26% of travelers rested in three-star hotels, 21% - in four-star hotels. Accommodation in five-star hotels in St. Petersburg accounted for 4% of all bookings in the city. About 15% of tourists stayed in hotels with their children. The average cost of living in the most popular category (“two stars” and below) in the summer of 2022 was 4,000 rubles,” the company said.

As part of the excursion programs, travelers mainly choose sightseeing trips around the city and boat trips along the rivers and canals of the city, including at night. Some want to learn about unusual locations: to conquer the roofs of St. Petersburg, to discover new spaces where you can take vivid photos. And, of course, they are often interested in trips to the suburbs, especially to Peterhof.

Pickpockets disappeared along with the foreigners

As St. Petersburg guide Vadim Vereshchagin told Novye Izvestia, there are a lot of Russian tourists this year. There are few foreigners, moreover, quite exotic countries.

“According to my feelings, there are more than 20 percent of Russians,” the guide says, “people are very different, someone comes for the first time, someone for the twentieth, there are many tourists with children. There are very few foreigners. I had tourists from Latvia this season. I saw bands from India, Iran, Turkey. Even from Thailand, which is especially surprising. I saw individual tourists from Arab countries, from Europe: Serbs, Czechs. But these are all single groups and tourists.”

The expert notes that a feature of this season is the absence of Chinese tourists. Novye Izvestia has already written why they disappeared and whether they will return to the Northern capital. But their absence reduces the crowds in museums and palaces.

“It’s good without the Chinese, there are fewer queues, the museums are more spacious”, - says Vadim Vereshchagin, “although it’s still very crowded. Tsarskoye Selo, Peterhof - all the same, the crowds, the groups follow each other, the Hermitage is also dense, although not in the same way as before.

Another effect of the absence of foreigners is that pickpockets have practically disappeared from the streets. The goal of the thieves has always been foreign tourists who will not go to the police, but the Russians are more vigilant, and in which case they will turn to the authorities. Another sign is the flourishing of annoying street entertainment - costumed emperors for photographs, sellers of cheap souvenirs and a scam - people are offered to play spin the bottle by lifting it with a stick with a cord, which, apparently, is impossible to do.

“There are more street breds: pigeons, Ekaterinas, Petras, life-size puppets”, - the guide says, “I was shocked when I saw a divorce with a bottle and a rope. I saw this in Marrakesh, I thought it would never come to us. But no, they stand at the arch of the main headquarters. A lot of dubious trade appeared: hookahs with you and the like. At the same time, no one is chasing them, as if everyone had closed their eyes, they are not disturbed. Many tourists are shocked by this, they say that this Gelendzhik would have been removed from the city in no time.

Speaking about what attracts tourists to St. Petersburg, the interlocutors of Novye Izvestia note that, first of all, these are classic objects: the Hermitage, palaces, parks, bridges and canals.

The press service of the Tsarskoye Selo Museum-Reserve told Novye Izvestia that about six thousand people visit the Catherine Palace with the Amber Room every day.

“In 2019, the museum existed in conditions of super demand, more than four million visitors were recorded during the year. In 2021, in the context of a pandemic - 1.8 million, and in 2022, provided that the year has not yet ended, almost two million. Now at the museum expositions, including in the Catherine Palace, it is quite comfortable. Visitors can see everything they have planned. And at the same time not to spend a lot of time in queues - as it was in 2019. In 2019, we were visited mainly by foreign tourists, most of whom were Chinese citizens. Now our visitors are Russians, and representatives of literally all cities - from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok. From January to mid-August, we were visited by about six thousand foreign tourists - these are individual visitors from Iran, India, China and European countries.

The museum noted that the best way to avoid queues at the entrance and at the box office is to buy tickets in advance on the site. Visiting the museum is carried out by sessions at a specific time

St. Petersburg guide Vadim Vereshchagin notes that tourists' spending on entertainment has become 20-30 percent higher.

“Prices have gone up for tickets, for guide services, driver rentals, buses, restaurants, hotels,” he says, “in general, travel has become more expensive. Some of the guides, who were sharpened by foreigners, stopped working altogether, therefore they cannot work with Russians. Another sign of the times is some left-wing guys who realized that now there is easy money here: they walked around the city, said something, got money. Maybe someday they will grow into professionals.”

Online hotel booking: jambs, bugs, scandals

A separate epic for hotels and tourists is booking rooms. The global aggregators Booking and Airbnb left Russia. They were replaced by Russian services, which faced a huge number of requests that not everyone could handle. As a result - permanent overbookings, errors in dates and prices. Therefore, experts advise always calling hotels to double-check your reservations.

“Russian aggregators can be understood, they had to go through a path in a few weeks that booking worked out for years - in terms of setting up the system, its stability and convenience”, - says Alena Yenova, “hoteliers received a wild number of errors and inaccuracies from the systems. But the saddest thing is that all this fell on our employees, because when a client arrives and finds out that there are no places and his reservation did not even appear in the system, he starts yelling at the hotel administrator. This is a big stress for everyone: for the guests, for us, and for the aggregators themselves. I can see from my objects how some systems live their own lives: rooms can suddenly “lose” a bathroom, become five-bed instead of two-bed, the price may change independently, and similar poltergeists. On the other hand, this led to the fact that guests began to book directly and we were able to save ourselves a commission: the same booking took 18% plus VAT. The winners were hotels that did not sit on the “booking needle”, but developed social networks, made native mailing lists, used various instant messengers in communications with guests, introduced loyalty programs, monitored reputation sites, invested in the service, in telephone conversation scripts and official websites their hotels.

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